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Monday’s Rugby News

Monday’s Rugby News

Welcome to Monday’s rugby news, GAGRs! This weekend, on a gloriously ‘typical Melbourne day’ (i.e. pissing down with rain whilst the sun is shining), I thought we could start the discussion about the potential 23 for the match. World Rugby have announced the match officials for the remainder of the TRC, so I thought I’d break these down for you all, too. Finally, we’ll look at the Steelers progress at the Paralympics in Japan before rounding off on the true worth of a player after Cheslin Kolbe’s new deal with Toulon.

Looking Forward, Looking Back

Looking forward to the third Bledisloe this coming Sunday, at the very family friendly time of 4pm AEST/2pm AWST, it will be interesting to see the side selected by Dave Rennie. There are at least two omissions from the last match, with Hunter Paisami and LSL missing the game to be present for the birth of their respective children. Furthermore, it’ll be curious to see if Rennie introduces personnel changes after the latest losses in Auckland. There is a distinct chance of Quade Cooper making a stunning comeback, as JOC is still yet to be rated as fit. A comeback may also occur for Izaak Rodda after his sojourn in France for some extra spending money. For me, the 23 will look something like this (whether I agree with this side is another thing entirely hahaha!!):

  1. 7As
  2. BPA
  3. Slipper
  4. Matt Philip
  5. Darcy Swain
  6. Lachie Swinton (*sighs*)
  7. Michael Hooper
  8. Harry Wilson
  9. Nic White
  10. Noah Lolesio
  11. Marika Koroibete
  12. Matt Two Cows (on a very last chance saloon prior to JOC returning)
  13. Len Ikitau
  14. Andrew Kelleway
  15. Tom Banks
  16. Feleti Kaitu’u
  17. Scott Sio
  18. Angus Bell
  19. Isaak Rodda
  20. Bobby Valetini
  21. Tate McDermott
  22. Quade Cooper
  23. Tom Wright

Match Officials for TRC

World Rugby has announced the match officials for TRC. World Rugby, in conjunction with respective governments, have found a way to import three neutral officials (two Poms and one Saffa) as centre referees as well as utilising local match officials as assistant referees and as TMO. For me, this is as good as it was going to get, considering the difficulty in getting Kiwi referees in and out of NZ due to MIQ places and the obvious need to reduce the amount of people travelling.

The appointments are as follows:

5/9/21Australia v New ZealandDamon Murphy (RA)
12/9/21Australia v RSALuke Pearce (RFU)
12/9/21NZ v ArgentinaNic Berry (RA)
18/9/21Argentina v NZJaco Peyper (SARU)
18/9/21Australia v RSAMatt Carley (RFU)
25/9/21NZ v RSALuke Pearce (RFU)
25/9/21Argentina v AustraliaMatt Carley (RFU)
2/10/21Australia v ArgentinaJaco Peyper (SARU)
2/10/21NZ v RSAMatt Carley (RFU)

As you’ll all know, I am a local referee down in Victoria. I don’t wish to analyse each referee as an individual out of professional respect (and I’d be disappointed if GAGRs descended into verbal diatribe… respect the referee, everyone!); however, what I will comment is that each of the referees selected for The Rugby Championship is well-respected and experienced on the big stage. This is slightly different to the approach World Rugby have taken in other series outside the World Cup, where there are occasionally opportunities to test up-and-coming referees. All the referees have relatively recent rugby behind them and are capable of handling the pressure. One interesting area to look at will be how the ruck and offside line is managed, particularly by the English referees. Those who may have watched some English Premiership would have noticed a very similar approach from the English referees as to what was implemented in the 2020 SR – Aotearoa (and what I wished was implemented more strictly in SR – AU). One game to get a excellent impression of the implementation of the laws is the Premiership semi-final between Bristol and Harlequins. It was one of the best non-international games I’ve had the privilege to watch (highlights here). Each of the sides may have some adjusting to do; though I feel that the style of the English referees in particular will benefit the Wallabies and Kiwis more than the other two sides. With any luck, there will be an instruction from the ARs to keep the offside line in check and the TMOs to be seen and not heard (as much as possible). With further luck, the teams will be looking to play an exciting brand of rugby that is positive in intent and a joy to watch.

As a follow on from my news a few weeks ago, I thought I’d share an article from RugbyPass posted this evening, Steve Hansen went further and commented on the negative play that had beset rugby, particularly from the coaching of Warren Gatland and Rassie Erasmus Jacques Nienaber. He believes that changing the laws isn’t what Union will benefit from; rather, implementing the laws that we already have will be better. Despite my article a few weeks ago (therefore I can be as contrary as I want… haha!) about the possibility of differing laws, particularly around subs, Hansen does have a point. As he says, “I’ve been beating my head against a brick wall for quite some time to get people to understand that we’re over-complicating it”. His point is more than fair. We’d hate to see the disaster that the NRL and the T20 BBL is at present. Simple games. Simple laws consistently officiated. It can’t be that hard, can it? *Tongue FIRMLY in cheek* 😉

Paralympics – Wheelchair Rugby

The Steelers have, unfortunately, been unable to defend their Olympic gold medal from 2016 in Rio. The team will be desperately disappointed to not even be in the hunt for the medals; however, the strength of the Japanese and USA sides in particular was quite notable. A shock loss to Denmark in the earlier rounds further jeopardised their chances.

All being said, as we are with all our athletes, irrespective of (dis)ability, we are exceptionally proud of you all. The Steelers matches, and indeed all the matches, were a joy to watch and really cemented rugby’s place for all bodies. Further, as the sport is only often seen on television once every four years, it was intriguing to see the complexities of the sport, including time-outs, utilising the shot clock for possession in the next quarter, and how teams can defensively employ themselves to both slow down and turn over the ball. I, for one, would love to see Wheelchair Rugby more actively promoted on the screen, particularly when devoid of other rugby to watch. Stan Sports, it’s all over to you!

The True Worth of a Player

Cheslin Kolbe, the electric winger from South Africa, has signed a reported AUD$1.6 million deal from Toulouse to Toulon. As a relatively small player (1.7 m, ~80 kg) with a set of limited, albeit exceptional, skills, it made me think about the true worth of some positions. Whilst I do appreciate that scoring tries is the aim of the game, surely the players who will be in a position to set up the opportunities rather than the finishers would be more valuable. Indeed, in recent history, some of the most expensive rugby union players have been 10s (Dan Carter, Aaron Cruden, Beaudy Barrett, etc.). That said, appreciating that rugby, particularly in France, is so much more after the ‘big name’, which Kolbe is, it is hardly surprising that he could be worth that amount.

As we all know, rugby is a game for all shapes and sizes: this is exactly why rugby is so attractive to the masses. Even in recent history where the shape and size has had a more narrowed definition, there is still variety that few, if any, other sports can match. In what other game can a proverbial brick shithouse come up against a titch and get away with it?!

But what is ‘the most important position’? What position would therefore demand the greatest salary? No doubt there will be carnage within the comments between Piggies and Princesses, and perhaps even civil war between respective positions, but it still presents an interesting conundrum. For me, there are five vital positions where a team needs a ‘world’s best’. They are: tighthead prop, tighthead second row, openside flanker, halfback (the inner referee in me is really hating on this…) and fly-half. Don’t get me wrong, each other position retains vital importance to a strong side; but having true world class players in these positions, for my mind, turns a ‘good team’ into a ‘strong team’.

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